June 12, 2019

When the first Global Fact-Checking Summit took place in London in 2014, the world of fact-checking was significantly smaller than it is today.

Only about 30 active fact-checking organizations fighting against fake news attended that event, which has been hosted by Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network ever since. Next week, more than 250 fact-checking initiatives will be represented at Global Fact 6 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Thirty of them will be making their conference debut. Several organizations told IFCN that they’re looking forward to connecting with their global community, learning new strategies to increase the efficacy of their work and finding sustainable profitability models.

The three-day fact-checking conference, which runs from June 18-21, has previously swept through London (2014 and 2015), Buenos Aires (2016), Madrid (2017) and Rome (2018). This year it will arrive on the African continent for the first time with a diverse pool of fact-checkers, journalists, academics and technologists. The group of more than 200 participants includes 70 from Europe, 60 from Africa, 55 from Asia, 44 from North and Central America, 16 from South America and five from Oceania.

The Duke Reporters’ Lab database has identified nine active fact-checking offices across Africa. But in 2018, only 11 participants from the region were in attendance at Global Fact V in Rome. At Global Fact 6, Africans will represent the second largest group by continent, with 60 registered participants — an impressive increase in participation.* 

“It’s very empowering [to know] that Global Fact is coming to the region,” said Dapo Olorunyomi, an editor and reporter at Dubawa, a Nigerian fact-checking organization among Global Fact’s newcomers. “It helps give legitimacy and value to the region, and to the effort that fact-checkers are making here.”

Asia, North, Central and South America are also sending more participants this year. The IFCN spoke to four of these newcomers from around the globe to find out about what they’re looking forward to at their first Global Fact. Below are three common themes that emerged in their responses.

Connecting with a collaborative community

Colombia Check has been in operation for three years. But its director, Pablo Medina Uribe, said the organization is finally able to attend Global Fact this year due to better internal planning.

He also suggested there might be more Latin American fact-checking organizations in attendance because of the region’s growing network of journalists.

“New fact-checking platforms in Latin America no longer need to start from zero, since there’s a large number of colleagues willing to help ease doubts and share contacts and experiences,” Uribe said in an email.

Since 2014, LatamChequea, a regional meeting of Latin-American fact-checkers, has been held every two years in Buenos Aires. The event, hosted by the staff of Chequeado, is one of the ways the continent’s fact-checkers come together to exchange experience and ideas.

Last year, it included participants from 21 countries and more than 30 organizations. Uribe hopes that, at Global Fact 6, he hopes Colombia Check will be able to expand on this collaborative community of journalists, technologists and academics.

“[It’s exciting] to know that both new and well-established organizations from all over the world will be present at the conference, people from which we can learn how to take on some of the problems we’ve been facing. Uniting our efforts is the only way that our work as fact-checkers makes any sense,” he said.

The editor in chief of Vishvas News, a fact-checking initiative from India, also emphasized the need for regional and national collaboration amongst journalists. In an email, Rajesh Upadhyay explained that, in a country with 627 million internet users, “the growth of social media has resulted in the tremendous rise of fake news.”

“If we fact-checkers in India are successful in dealing with the issue of misinformation, with the help of IFCN and global fact-checkers, it would be a great victory.”

Increasing the efficacy of their work

Another one of Vishvas News’ goals at Global Fact 6 is to “learn about the best practices other fact-checkers are applying,” Upadhyay said.

Olorunyomi and Uribe echoed similar ideas; the conference newcomers are eager to find out what others are up to and soak up insights and new ideas.

Esdras Tsongo, a journalist for Congo Check, which operates in several cities throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo, is specifically looking forward to acquiring strategies for fact-checking in a crisis region.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, severe violence between armed groups and an Ebola outbreak have displaced 4.49 million Congolese. Within this politically complex and war-torn environment, Tsongo is interested in “discovering [how to] fight false information without infringing on journalistic principles.”

Technology is also on these fact checkers’ minds.

Tsongo said he is most excited to meet representatives from Google and Facebook. Uribe, from Colombia, feels the same. He said he is looking forward to panels that will address “how to better accomplish our work across specific platforms, like WhatsApp.”

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned private messaging platform, has become a top source for viral misinformation from India to Brazil. At last year’s Global Fact, participants got to discuss this with Carl Woog, WhatsApp’s director of communications, who confirmed that “fact-checking is going to be essential” for the platform to move forward productively. This year, panel topics include automation, data visualization, innovative solutions to misinformation and, once more, WhatsApp.

Over the phone, Olorunyomi also told the IFCN that engaging with tech companies was essential in learning “how to make fact-checkers’ jobs easier and how to do effective fact-checking across different platforms.”

Finding a stable profitability model

Finally, several of the new conference attendees are eager to discuss effective strategies for carving out profitability models.

Oloryumi explained that Dubawa (from Nigeria) is currently grant-funded, and the organization can’t pretend that the grant will be there forever.

“We need to see what other folks are doing in this regard, how they are monetizing fact-checking,” he said.

Tsongo had the same concern for Congo Check, which has been functioning thanks to volunteers for more than a year.

“Congo Check is the only fact-checking network in Central Africa,” he wrote. “It is very important … it needs to continue to exist, and this will only be possible if it is financed. Debunking fake news saves human lives in the DRC.”

On Thursday, June 19, Clara Jiménez Cruz of Maldita.es will lead the featured talk “Community Building and Sustainability in Fact-Checking.” Tai Nalon of Aos Fatos is scheduled to host a workshop the following day on “Membership Programs and Other Forms of Funding Independent Fact-Checking Initiatives.”

Upadhyay said that Vishvas News hopes to learn strategies for monetization and attaining revenue sources. He expects that “Global Fact 6 will be a great brain-storming get-together of fact-checkers, journalists, scholars and tech professionals,” a process that could determine the future of fact-checking.

*Disclosure: The Reporters’ Lab helps fund the Global Fact-Checking Summit.

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